One day after our sojourn on the Peloponnesian mainland and the cruise port of Katakolon our ship was on to the island of Mykonos. This Greek island, in the Cycladic chain (roughly the Cycladic islands make a chain around the holy island of Delos) is well-known for its windmills, whitewashed homes perched on surrounding hills, and Little Venice area where houses are actually built to the waterline, like in the Italian city of Venice.
We had elected to tour the ancient ruins of Delos here, having previously spent time at a Mykonos beach (Paradise Beach) and been a little disappointed. Delos did not disappoint – at least I loved it.
But then, I love ruins.
I had expected temples, and was surprised to learn that Delos was a thriving city, not just a religious pilgrimage site. It has a vast number of uncovered houses, shops, avenues, courtyards, shrines. Of course, the temples were there, too, or at least the ruins of them. Unlike Pompeii (and Akrotiri), the city of Delos was overrun by ancient enemies who sacked the place, killed the people, and made off with all the wealth of the city and many of its statues and monuments. Most of the city has not yet been excavated, lying under a vast mound of rubble surrounding the excavated bits.
Our guide was an expert in Delos, having written one of the books on the subject. That's probably what lost Pete – really, the guide's enthusiasm was overtaken by his droning on and on, especially when we were sitting in the hot sun. Nevertheless, it was fascinating to see the ruins of this ancient Greek city full of mosaics, columns, statues, and lovely courtyards. I wanted to lose myself in the ruins – sit and soak in the history and try to understand what life was like in this amazing place.
But of course, in a tour with others, that's not possible. I had to make do with a few moments in a field of marble statue pieces … quiet, but not really as contemplative as I would have liked.
I really enjoyed the House of the Dionysis – a vast courtyard with a mosaic of Dionysis riding a panther in the middle. Even more, I loved the Sacred Grove – an area of pine trees (and one palm tree) that is the legendary place that Athena and Apollo were born (under the palm; the current one was planted in the 1800s). It was peaceful and calm and I would like to have explored it more. The “Sacred Avenue” was interesting – a little like similar ones in Pompeii where you can see how the merchants lived and sold their wares, and imagine what the bustling city must have been like.
The museum was also interesting, with most of the fragile parts of mosaics and statues having been moved there for their protection. The number of statues, frescos, mosaics and assorted other items that have survived is remarkable. We also sampled some baklava from the little cafe – very nice. Although I do NOT recommend the cafe bathrooms – use the museum ones instead.
Back in Mykonos Town, we walked through Little Venice to the windmills. A short walk from the New Port pier, where our boat from Delos had anchored, these windmills are typical of Cycladic ones you can find all over those Greek islands. I'd seen pictures of them all my life, but it was fun seeing them in person. We also sampled some Greek gelato and did a little shopping in the amazing small shops on our route. It was a Greek holiday, too, and there were a lot of people about in folkloric dress, including some adorable Greek children.
But the ruins were the best!